I'm hoping we don't repeat that this year. Here's what I'm doing differently this year:
1. We are focusing on the positive behavior of our kids. We did a family night one night and talked about Ephesians 4:29 which says to let no unwholesome talk come out of our mouth but only that which is useful for building others up according to their needs. Each person drew their portrait and then passed it to another person who then crumpled it up. We talked about if the wrinkles and any tears on the paper could be undone. We talked about our behavior as something that can be forgiven but not something that can be undone and then talked about how our words and actions build up or crumple others.
2. To help the grown ups not get so sucked into focusing on negative behaviors, we are doing warm fuzzy jars. Each kid has a Mason jar and each time the grown ups see a child doing something that encourages others, the child gets a pom pom/warm fuzzy for their jar. Once their jar is filled, the kiddo gets to pick something fun to do like go our for ice cream. D and I have been trying to make it a bit of a competition to see who hands out more poms each day. There is no removing poms for bad behavior; it is only about noting the positive.
3. One of our kids is doing swim team which means she is gone from 8 to 10 every day. I honestly think this one might be the biggest difference for us. We have three big kids and it seems like it is a struggle for all three of them to get along. Two is much easier for some reason. It doesn't really seem to matter which two.
4. My two who are home all morning long are using a "Done by One " checklist. I based this off of another list I saw floating around the Internet. This checklist gives them some flexibility in what they do but also some structure for the morning. At our house, every kid has to have an hour of quiet time which usually happens from noon to one. If the list is not done by one (after quiet time), then Mom or Dad will start giving directions from the items remaining on the list. If someone gets their list done, then they are free to do whatever they want which includes tv or tablet time. Here's what's on the list: read for 20 minutes, do a math page from a math workbook, finish one's morning chore, do a pick up of one's room so that it is free of clothes or trash and the bed is made, talk with God or learned more about Him, and play, build or do something creative for 40 minutes. It seems like this list takes the two who are home all morning most of the morning. Often they start with the play item and end up playing way longer than 40 minutes. Usually around ten, I remind them that they need to get the other items on their lists done and then they stop playing to get to work on that. For my one who does swim team, her schedule is a bit different as she gets home a bit after ten and grabs a quick protein based snack. Then she has to take a nap from 10:30 to 11. We usually eat around 11 so depending on when we eat, then she can start on her list. She usually uses her quiet time to do some of the items on her list. I also let her skip the reading for 20 minutes because we also do that at bedtime so it's not like she is completely missing out on reading. So far, it's been just the right amount of structure and flexibility.
4. The afternoon are less structured but this summer, I've tried to make sure each weekday has some type of activity planned. None of the activities will fill our whole afternoon but they will give us something to do and look forward to. We joined the YMCA for the summer. It's a 25 minute drive so we can't do it all year but for the summer, we can easily get there two days a week without feeling overcommitted. We are going to the Y two afternoons out of the week. The kids get to do child care which means playing while D and I work out and enjoy some kid free time. The two who are not doing swim team are going to do swimming lessons. We also plan to spend some time at the Y with our kids, swimming, playing basketball, etc.. The local library has activities in the month of June every Tuesday so that fills up one day. We are also going to go to the library one extra day out of the week to check out new books. That leaves one weekday left with no planned activity. I hate the idea of having to plan a lot of stuff to keep my kids entertained but I think I handle figuring out something one day a week. We'll be doing stuff like getting the water table out, playing in the sprinkler, and making junk projects. I've been collecting odds and ends like cardboard tubes, lots of different boxes, and assorted pieces of cardboard. I also cleaned out the mismatched socks basket and pulled out the old socks with no mates or those with holes. Basically, I'm accumulating crap and then I'm going to turn my kids loose with it.
We're about a week in to actually implementing most of this and so far so good. I've enjoyed my kids thus far and I think there's been less yelling. Hope it lasts!